The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
You know, Peter Jackson, god bless him, but he set the bar so impossibly high for epic fantasy film making. Damn your rings and the lords of them. However… directer Andrew Adamson continues to come within striking distance of said bar with his thus-far very impressive and equally epic Chronicles of Narnia series, continuing this past week with part 2, Prince Caspian.
So, the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy (William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley, respectively), when we left them at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, they had vanquished the White Witch, brought peace to Narnia, and grown up to be legendary Kings and Queens. Then they get transported back to the real world, where literally no time has passed, and they are back to being kids. In the second installment, it’s a year later for them, yet 1300 years have passed in Narnia. And they return after Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) calls for them on Susan’s mystical horn. Caspian is the rightful heir to the throne, but in a move reminiscent of the Bard, his uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) made a deadly move for the throne by killing Caspian’s father. Miraz is a tyrant, all the Narnians are now thought to be extinct, yet they’re just living in hiding. So Caspian, along with the Pevensies, must bring peace, order and balance back to Narnia.
As previously stated, the bar for epic fantasy is so, well, epically high, that it seems almost unattainable. And it’s hard to compare The Chronicles of Narnia to Lord of the Rings, because they are so different thematically, in tone, in presentation, in style and in it’s target demographic. The target audience for LotR is people who perpetually live in a fantasy land, while living in their parents’ house, having never had sex, while the target audience for Narnia is children.
But there is still that similar genre, so comparisons must be made. The reason the Narnia films have done, and will continue to do, so well where others like Eragorn and Golden Compass and even Bridge to Terabithia have failed is that it seems to refuse to placate to the childhood nostalgia aspect. The others have played it safe by staying safely within the realm of “kids movie,” never having to invest a lot in grabbing older audiences. But Narnia is going all out in it’s movie making. While it is significantly toned down, when compared to LotR, it doesn’t feel like a “kids movie.” And it is the one series, I feel, that can truly be enjoyed on every level by kids, parents, and even grandparents.
Adamson presents the film, and the story, for that matter, as is. He doesn’t “dumb it down” for the kids, and he doesn’t get too convoluted with the storytelling. He respects the source material, C.S. Lewis, and the audience, and that’s the strongest thing this film has going for it. And despite the PG rating, the battle scenes are really intense. Very well done.
I always take time to discuss the actors, because they need to respect the material just as much as the director or writer does. Adamson gets some absolutely fantastic performances from the young actors, who descend in age at 21, 19, 16 and 12 (Moseley, Popplewell, Keynes and Henley). Their grasp of the characters they play, the importance of the script, their handling of the script, and the subsequent gravitas they bring to the characters shows talent that some actors more than twice their age struggle to exhibit. With the third installment, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader already in pre-production (set for a 2010 release), I’m gonna miss Moseley and Popplewell. Peter and Susan are not in that book (not for long anyway), so they won’t really be in the flick. And they’ll be missed. By me anyway.
Definitely hit the theatres for this one.